It was a two week manhunt that shook communities across Canada and made headlines as far as Australia and North Carolina. The case of three northern B.C. homicides and the hunt for suspects Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod came to a close Friday in a 5,000-word report released by the RCMP.
But while the report answered some long, lingering questions – such as confirmation that the two young Port Alberni men fatally shot botanist lecturer Leonard Dyck, American tourist Chynna Deese and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler – a number of pertinent details will likely never be known, including their motive for the slayings.
Here’s a look at six details in the case investigators found after McLeod and Schmegelsky were found dead by suicide on Aug. 7:
1. Leonard Dyck’s body was moved after he was killed
On July 19, just before 8:30 a.m., a highway worker notified a Dease Lake RCMP officer responding to a burnt truck along Highway 37 that he had found a dead man at a highway pullout just two kilometres south.
The man would later be identified as Dyck, a 64-year-old botanist lecturer from UBC in Vancouver. Police would also later determine from a recovered licence plate that the burnt out white Dodge truck belonged to McLeod.
While the BC Coroners Service could not confirm the exact day that Dyck was killed, police do know that McLeod and Schmegelsky killed Deese and Fowler on July 15 – 546 kilometres, or a 7.5 hour drive, away from where Dyck’s body was discovered.
On July 20, as police started processing the crime scene near Dease Lake, the coroner confirmed that Dyck’s body had been moved from an unknown location. Out of consideration for his family, police won’t be releasing any details about Dyck’s death, other than he was shot with a SKS semi-automatic rifle, as well as suffered injuries to his head and body, including bruises and burn marks.
A total of six scenes were found by police in connection to the fugitives and Dyck within a 50-kilometre radius of where the lecturer was found. Dyck’s silver RAV4 would not be found at any of these locations, as McLeod and Schmegelsky stole it and drove it 3,000 kilometres to Gillam, Man.
2. List of random items purchased by Schmegelsky, McLeod
Through surveillance footage and receipts, the police report included rather random details on the various items purchased by the pair over their two weeks on the lam.
The first and most relevant item, purchased when the two left Port Alberni on July 12, was a SKS semi-automatic rifle purchased with McLeod’s Possession and Acquisition Licence at a Cabela’s outdoor sporting goods store in Nanaimo.
Other items included a cowboy hat purchased at a gas station in Fort Nelson on July 14, less than 24 hours before they killed Deese and Fowler.
On July 15, after crossing into the Yukon, the pair were in a Whitehorse gas station where Schmegelsky was caught on surveillance footage buying a 20-litre gas jerry can, with the cowboy hat on. The jerry can nozzle was later found at the scene of their burnt white Dodge truck.
They also bought doughnut packages, a Coffee Crisp chocolate bar and two pairs of gloves at a local store in Dease Lake on the afternoon of July 18.
They went on to buy a crow bar and electrical tape at a Vanderhoof hardware store – the tape being used to make racing stripes on the hood of the stolen RAV4 to change its appearance.
3. 41 days worth of CCTV footage reviewed, 1,500 tips chased
As the manhunt led the provincial, national and even international news cycle within days of Schmegelsky and McLeod being named as suspects in the three killings, police officers parsed through more than 1,500 tips between July 16 to Aug. 4. While some were made through Crime Stoppers, 911 and the dedicated tip line, a number were made at detachment counters across the country.
In B.C., there were up to 160 police officers and employees working extended shifts to review more than 1,000 hours (or 41 days) of surveillance footage as the ground and aerial search took place in Manitoba.
Some of the tips that were determined to be unfounded included the fugitives being spotted in the U.S. and as far as Ontario.
|Kam McLeod (left) and Bryer Schmegelsky (right) spotted at a hardware store in Meadow Lake, Sask., on July 21, 2019. Both are wanted in a string of homicides in northern B.C. (RCMP handout)|
4. Fugitives did head to the Yukon after all
According to police, the families of McLeod and Schmegelsky were under the impression the two had decided to leave their jobs at the Port Alberni Walmart and head to the Yukon to look for work.
After their burnt truck was found, the family members told police the men were “good kids” who had been sending them photos of their trip over text message. The last contact they had with their families was on July 17, police said.
Initially, police were treating them as missing persons until July 23, when they were named as suspects in the murders of Dyck, Deese and Fowler. By then, the two were already in Thompson, Man., based on surveillance footage processed well after the two had left the area.
But before Manitoba, after they killed Deese and Fowler and before killing Dyck, the two did in fact cross the border into the Yukon on July 15, stopping at a gas station. According to police, MacLeod had hunted with his father in the area a number of times.
They stayed in the area until the evening of July 17. Over the course of those two days they were seen at two gas stations and by a traffic control supervisor who found them stopped along the Alaska Highway with apparent car troubles. The supervisor told police they offered assistance, but the fugitives declined help and continued heading back to B.C.
5. Police still don’t know where the second gun came from
Investigators found two SKS firearms near the bodies of Schmegelsky and McLeod in Gillam– one legally purchased in Nanaimo, and another of unknown origin.
Lastly: On Aug 7 police find bodies of the two young men, 8 km away from burnt RAV4— Ashley Wadhwani (@ashwadhwani) September 27, 2019
2 SKS semi-automatic rifles near bodies, used in killings of Deese, Fowler, Dyck --> one legally bought in Nanaimo, second remains unclear
Dyck's camera also found with 6 videos, 3 photos
Police have been able to link both guns to the three slayings, as well as what they have described as a “suicide pact” between the two young men.
Investigators likely won’t find the owner of the second gun, an older-style SKS, as it has numerous serial numbers leading police to believe it was created by parts from various different weapons.
6. Confessed murderers had plans to kill others
Although they didn’t leave behind any details as to why they committed the three murders, Schmegelsky and McLeod contemplated killing others while in Gillam.
Police recovered a digital camera, which belonged to Dyck, near the pair’s bodies. Although forensic specialists have been unable to recover any time stamps, six videos and three images were found. Within those six videos are a confession, a plan to march to Hudson Bay and hijack a boat to flee to Africa or Europe, and discussion of suicide.
The third video, 32 second longs, depicts Schmegelsky saying to the camera that they had shaved in preparation for their deaths and planned to “go back to kill more people and expect to be dead in a week.”
None of those videos or photos will ever be released to the public, police said, in order to avoid copycat killers or influence people to commit acts of targeted violence.
Note: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated the Possession and Acquisition Licence belonged to Schmegelsky. In fact, it belonged to McLeod. Another version cited police as saying Schmegelsky had hunted with his father in the Yukon. Again, it was McLeod.